National Nurses Week is May 6-12 and nobody has a bigger story to tell than Methodist Hospital | South’s ICU Nurse Frances (Netardus) Soward, who has experienced the many changes of the hospital over the years. However, Soward has never seen anything like COVID-19 in her 30 years of nursing, which has been compared to the Spanish Influenza.
Coming from a long line of nurses, Soward’s grandmother, Elizabeth Kallus Netardus, actually worked as a nurse during that time. Netardus became a nurse at 22 in the Fall of 1918 when the Spanish Influenza first hit the US.
“There weren’t enough nurses, so they were just taking in any woman to be a nurse,” said Soward. “She would go to a patient’s house with a doctor and, if they were sick, stay with that patient until they either got better or died from the flu. The doctor would then come back and get her and go on to the next house.”
Soward’s mom, Jean Netardus, was also a nurse in her younger years. Originally from Fort Stockton, Jean had a friend with ties to Jourdanton, and in 1960, decided to move to the small town. At that time, nuns from the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament were training women to be nurses at Mercy Hospital. Jean worked as a nurse for only about two years before she met Soward’s father in the hospital.
Soward has always been interested in the medical field. In fact, she studied pre-med at Southwest Texas University (now Texas State University) in San Marcos. When she didn’t get accepted into medical school, Soward didn’t give up.
“I was devasted, but I knew that my calling was in healthcare in some capacity.”
Soward’s mom and family friend encouraged her to talk to those same nuns about nursing school. Eventually, Soward would be awarded the Lillian Walton Foundation Scholarship and attend nursing school at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.
“It’s a wonderful feeling you get when helping one get better. Even better, in my opinion, is the patient’s family’s response once they’ve healed. It’s the most gratifying feeling to experience,” said Soward.
Methodist Hospital | South has seen growth and many changes over the years, and Soward has been there for them all. From being owned by three local businessmen in the beginning to now owned by Methodist Healthcare, Soward said the hospital has always strived to be progressive.
“That never really changed with [STRMC] and even now with Methodist,” said Soward. “When I was just learning the ropes, I was fortunate enough to have good people helping me as far as the management side.”
Previously Tri-City Community Hospital, Soward worked in the hospital during the summer for two years while she was in nursing school at the UT Health Science Center as a nurse aide and monitor tech.
“I’ve been here, essentially, the whole time,” said Soward.
Mercy Hospital first hired her in January 1991 as a night shift charge nurse, then later moved her to day shift charge nurse. One year later, she became the medicalsurgical director. In December 1999, Soward resigned as the director as she was sent to train for the ICU (intensive care unit). South Texas Regional Medical Center then opened up at the hospital’s current location in July 2000. That’s when Soward began her stint as an ICU nurse and where she remains to this day.
Taking care of people you know and experiencing the loss of a loved one are just a few of the things that keep Soward rooted in her career as a nurse and not even COVID 19 could change that.
“It’s been a very hard year. I don’t know if the community really understands what we’ve really been doing,” said Soward. On average, before COVID 19, the ICU averaged one to two patients daily. In the past year, all six ICU beds were full at all times, including the extended COVID-19 ward. “We had to work extra hours and thankfully, the state sent in nurses to help relieve us. COVID-19 is very real. The ICU has seen patients who are getting sicker. We do have a few who manage to get very sick and then get better, but some are just not going to get better at all. It’s been very hard on us all.”
In the midst of it all, Soward believes that nursing is key when it comes to great hospital care, especially at Methodist Hospital | South.
“If you have good nursing staff that really takes care of you, that’s really the key to having a really good experience; and I think that we have that here at our hospital. I believe in our hospital and I believe that Methodist really believes in a lot of the same core values that I believe in.”
Soward is married to Atascosa County Sheriff David Soward. They live in La Parita, just outside of Jourdanton, and have two children: Will and Erin. Will is graduating from Sam Houston State University in two weeks and Erin is finishing up her second year at the University of Texas at Austin. Soward said she plans to stay in nursing until both of her kids have graduated from college.